...how at my sheet...
Remus was tired of packing. It wasn't really so much the amount of packing, as the energy that it was taking to finish it off. Something was causing him to prolong it, just a little bit longer. Maybe to save this trinket for later, or decide to stuff something in a trunk at the very last minute. All around the boxes filled with necessities, were useless trifles that wouldn't matter so much if they weren't useful for killing time. An old notebook. A chipped tea cup. A peseta here, an old watch there, and all of it Sirius's, his things, his memories, his losses. Perhaps they weren't his losses, but Remus's, but Remus didn't know that. He was too tired. He hadn't slept in a few days. He was still hung over from last night, as well as last morning, and, come to think of it, the night before that. He was running away. He had never had anything amputated, but he imagined this was how it must feel. His only anaesthetic was his Scotch.
He looked around. What else was left?
He'd forgotten about it. They had rarely used it, only for junk they didn't have the energy to throw out, or old school things. Now it was time for him to unearth the forgotten treasures. He went for his bottle of Scotch and, armed with liquor, made his way to the very back room.
It was still lit by the dreary November light. It would soon grow dark, and he hadn't brought in any candles. Perfunctory thought. He rubbed his eyes and put the Scotch bottle on the dusty desk. He hadn't bothered with a glass, either. These days he found it was much more satisfying to chug it rather than to sip. The burn it gave his throat helped take his mind off other things, and he discovered with some pleasure he'd got quite used to it. He gave the bottle a long look, then turned away. Settling down on the floor by the closet, he pulled the door open, and was immediately showered with papers, scrolls, and broken quills. Of course – their old notes from school. God only knew why they'd kept them, but he remembered something about it being comforting to look at the pages after they'd all left Hogwarts. Sirius never understood it, and Remus hadn't looked at them in over two years. Now they were all at his feet – Arithmancy, Muggle Studies, Astronomy, even Divination. The Defense Against the Dark Arts. His childish handwriting marked most of the pages that now confronted him, and the rest were filled with Sirius's straight and unapologetic script. Messy and somehow extraordinarily Sirius. He never seemed to give in, even when confronted with a quill, ink, and an empty page.
Remus now regretted not having brought any candles, or, really, any matches. He'd have liked to set the whole place on fire, but he had to make his escape look inconspicuous. He threw a look across the room, searching for a stray box of matches. His wand he'd also left in the other room. The Scotch had given his legs a heaviness that now weighed him down. He couldn't be bothered to shrug it off just yet. The fire would have to wait.
Pushing the flyaway papers aside, he dug further into the closet. Most of its contents were conveniently piled on the bottom; he did not have to reach far. He tore through the broken quills, through the toys from joke shops that had lived past their expiration dates, through all the school memories that filled the small, dusty space. A few books lay on top of a pair of boxes. Through the haze of the alcohol he took time to wonder at the fact that they had bothered with the boxes at all, and then he saw it: something completely unfamiliar. It looked like an ordinary leather-bound book, but something told him right away that it wasn't. It was tied up by strings all around, as if somebody hadn't wanted anybody else getting inside. But why was it at the bottom of the closet? If it'd been important… Remus drew his eyebrows together and tentatively touched the dark spine. The dust came off and softened his finger. He reached further and grasped the cover. Brown, worn, with a dark water stain on the top left corner. The pages looked ransacked. He took it out completely and held it against the light of the window. The dull evening glow illuminated a strange pattern carved into the leather. With a cold shudder, Remus saw the Black Family crest. Sirius's. This was Sirius's…what? He hurriedly began untying the leather bindings, though his fingers disobeyed him, shaking. He cursed and ripped at the strings. They snapped and came off easily in his hand. It was only then that he remembered to be surprised that they hadn't eaten his fingers, instead. He knew how protective the Black family had always been about any of their belongings. Knowing now what he knew of Sirius…
Remus reached for the Scotch and took a swift gulp. His eyes stung as he coughed. He put the bottle back by his side, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Knowing now what he knew of Sirius, he was surprised there hadn't been ten hexes set on the thing. Perhaps there were, and he was still to discover them. He found he didn't care. He opened the first page.
He almost laughed. A journal of… of a madman. Of a traitor, of a mad traitor, of a queer. It was Sirius's diary.
It took him a few moments to turn to the next page. They seemed especially difficult to turn. Perhaps it was the oncoming darkness; he didn't know. He stared at the familiar handwriting, verging on adult, yet inevitably veering into reckless childishness. The date told him of their sixth year. The day… He looked at it in disbelief. It was the day after the Sirius had sent Snape to the Willow.
"Merlin…" He drew in his breath and began reading. He soon discovered he couldn't stop. The shaky writing was luring him in, and he never could resist anything of Sirius's, not even a Chocolate Frog.
19 November, 1975
Pomfrey has made me stay the entire day. Said I looked ready to collapse. Well, what the bloody fuck does she know? Who cares what I look like? Just let me be. Why am I in here? Why isn't James? Where's Remus? They've probably got him in that "special room"… God.
I can't believe Mother, sending this old thing. Birthday gift. As if she cared. What does she hope, I'll find my Black side in the crest? Well, fuck you, Mother. Instead, I'll write all about how big a Gryffindor I am. Some Gryffindor. Some fucking joke, that's what I am.
Oh God, Remus isn't talking to me. I can't blame him, but why can't he understand I hadn't meant it? Any of it! I didn't think… God, this is all bloody Snape's fault! What the fuck does he care where we all go? What does he want with Remus? Probably nothing now, oh GOD. I am such an idiot! How could I have done that? I had PROMISED, PROMISED him I wouldn't tell anybody, and he'd trusted me! Me and my fucking big mouth. I can't… Why won't he talk to me? Just talk to me, that's all I ask, but he won't. Not since we told him, not since… Fuck. Fuck, fuck fuck… Fuck.
3 December, 1975
He still isn't talking. Why am I even writing about this? Like it'll make it go away, or something. Fat bloody chance. He isn't talking to me. He talks to James, and Peter, but it's like I don't exist. No, wait, I do, he just doesn't want anything to do with me anymore. He bloody talks to Evans, but not me! What the fuck does he want with Evans, anyway, I mean, that's James's territory! Why won't you fucking TALK to me, Moony?! WHY?!
Remus broke off. He felt his heart beating faster than normal, almost ripping into his ribs. He was going to be sick. He tried to swallow, but his dry throat protested, stinging. He coughed, and was mildly relieved it had merely been a cough and nothing more. Questions swirled in his mind, so many questions; too many questions. They were questions he wasn't fit to answer on the best of days, and now, he only wanted to sleep and not be. Not be aware, not be conscious, he only wanted—
He gulped down more Scotch. He was almost down to the bottom of the bottle. He'd need to unearth his entire stash if he were to get through this. But not now. Now was definitely not -- not the time--
He pulled himself up on unsteady arms, then legs. Everything in his body hurt, he was aware of every muscle, and each one stung and bit as he made his clumsy way to the couch on the other side of the room. The exhaustion hit him almost as an afterthought, and the last thing he felt was the slide of leather against his shirt, and searing pain in his temples. He heard a soft thump as the journal fell to the floor, the slide of page against the wood. It was still dark when he woke up.
He had barely enough time to turn over into his stomach, and sweep the journal aside with a lifeless hand, when he was sick on the floor. His entire body shook, he clung to the couch as well as he could, and he felt himself slipping, whether in body or in mind, he could no longer tell. The darkness of the room, the smell of vomit, the dust in the air, all weighed him down in a sort of infinity, where there was never going to appear a light in the dark, nor order in the chaos. He breathed through his mouth, unable to get enough air through his nose. His eyes closed, he lay half off the couch, wishing that it would end now, and save him from the trouble of moving ever again; end now and never move again.
His father had once told him, even the filthiest rags and the most horrible appearance can cover the best and most worthy of men. That was probably true. Lying as he was, facing his own pool of sick, in robes that clung to his sweat-drenched body, and smelling his own stagnation, he only knew that sometimes appearance echoed the filth inside. Lying as he was, he felt worthless, useless, and stupid. So bloody stupid. To have trusted, to have believed… To have loved someone –
The dry heaves turned to sick, and he could no longer remember neither a time nor a place that did not reek of alcohol, vomit, and shame. When he fell asleep, he couldn't tell. All he knew was the weight of the night, the weight of the shame, the weight of the decisions he'd made, and his flat - dark, soundless, and utterly empty.
The picture must have been taken sometime after they'd left Hogwarts.
He'd never seen it before. He didn't know when Sirius had taken it.
He was looking at his sleeping self. He knew this was after Hogwarts, the bed that surrounded him wasn't the Gryffindor four-poster, nor the narrow bed of his parents' old house.
He'd never seen it before. He didn't know when Sirius had taken it.
3 July, 1977
He kissed me. I can't believe it. He kissed me. We were alone, lying on the grass on the hill up from Remus's new place. I'm not even sure how it happened – I mean, we were lounging about, he had a piece of grass hanging from his mouth, we were joking around, teasing… Then I looked at him – I always do, he must have known. He looked back. He looked so good just then – his green eyes, his smile, his hair flopping onto his forehead. He was so, I don't know…beautiful. I'd never seen a bloke look beautiful before, but he was. The sun was in his eyes, he was squinting, and he always looks so good when he squints, like he's a got a secret, and he'll only tell you for the right price, if at all. He looked like he had a secret, and I had a secret, too. I'm sure it was written on my face. He already knew I was queer – he'd guessed. I just… I didn't know he was, too. God, what have I done to have such luck? That the person I like would like me back? Because he does, I know he does. Now, I know. It's one of those things you can know… I don't know… at a certain moment. He leaned on his arm, and looked at me, and I'd completely lost any ability to talk, I had no idea what to say, I was so stupid. I couldn't open my mouth, but then he leaned in closer and simply kissed me. Oh God, I'd never kissed a bloke before, and he was so GOOD, he was just right, it was amazing. And it was Remus. I couldn't help it, and I peeked, I opened my eyes and he was still there, and I felt his tongue, and it was… Oh God, it was so good, I could've laughed. I didn't, but I could've. He's sleeping now, right here, right next to me. He's so quiet when he sleeps, he never makes any noise, unless you come, like, right up to his nose, and then he's just breathing.
Moony. I'd never say it to him, but that name fits him really well. I mean, he can be completely bonkers, but he's also kind of strange in a different way, I don't know, he's Moony. And he's mine. Eat your heart out, Alice What's-Your-Face, he's mine now. He's lying in a bed, right next to me. He's naked, too. God, he's skinny. But so good-looking. Quite a round bum, too, you can't see it in his robes, but… Oh, fuck. I'm getting a hard-on. I think he needs to wake up now.
Remus closed the last trunk. The flat was bare, mostly boxes and trunks crowded the space, waiting to be carried off. He sank to the floor in exhaustion, automatically pulling the bottle towards him. This one still had quite a bit left. He really should make the whole binge even, he thought, and not leave a bottle with so much Scotch in it, lying around for the next tenant to come and drink it all up. This was his Scotch. This was his anaesthetic. This was his medicine.
He leaned heavier against the wall. Once more, he opened the diary to a random page. Calmly, he looked at the date before reading.
10 April, 1976
I can't really believe it, but he came up to me, on his own. I wasn't even looking, like I usually am, I was writing an essay for Flitwick, and there he was. He kind of fumbled a bit, then sat down opposite me, and I was so shocked, I couldn't really say anything. I must have looked so stupid. He said "hi" and I said "hi" though I think he didn't hear me, cos my throat was dry. So stupid. And then he asked how my essay was going, and I told him fine, because it was, and then he kind of looked down at the table, and fidgeted with his robe a bit, and then he said "it's all right" and I couldn't believe it, so I asked, I said "what's all right" and he said "what happened with Snape, you know…last autumn… you know," and I said "yes" and he said "it's all right," and "do you want to go down to dinner?" and I just said "yeah" and we went to dinner, and sat next to each other, like we hadn't for ages, and then James came over, and Peter, and we all sort of sat there, not talking, and I'm not sure how, but I'm so happy right now, I don't know what to do with it. I mean, this has been… It's been so long since we all sat there like that, not quiet, but together, really together, and James looked relieved as hell, and so did Peter, and I must have looked like an idiot, but I don't care. I'm still not sure if everything really is back to normal, but I bloody well hope so. Ok, enough for one night, my hand is hurting. Remus is back. He promised me a round of chess.
On the back of the picture was the date he hadn't noticed at first. Sirius's handwriting, July, 1977, and a line, many times crossed out. He peered at it, but all he could make out was half a sentence, hardly making much sense on its own:
be loved alone
He turned the picture over. His sleeping self looked calm, restful even. Every now and then, he could see himself move slightly and then be calm again. He couldn't remember ever feeling like that, certainly not while he'd been awake. It had been quite a while since he could sleep as easily, or heavily. He hadn't even heard the click of the shutter; hadn't blinked at the flash.
21 December, 1977
Well, that was a lovely pre-Christmas shag. Actually, it wasn't so much a shag, as a very loud and very raucous pre-Christmas shag-party. We'd waited till we got home, obviously, I mean, I can just see Lily's face, or better yet, James's or Peter's, if we'd started going at it right in front of them. Might have been fun, but no. We needed our home. God, I can't get enough of him, he's amazing. Who would have thought he would be so fucking amazing in bed, or, really, in the kitchen, on the floor, in the shower – especially the shower, on the couch, again in the kitchen, and in the closet. Not ours, somebody else's. It wasn't really our fault for getting snowed in at Shacklebolt's place, it's his bloody fault for living all the way up North. We all have needs, after all. At least Remus does. My back is killing me. He's asleep now. Sleeps like a horse after he's been shagged rotten, can't ever wake him up. The full moon's in a few days, though, he does need the rest. I'll work on the restraints in the shed tomorrow morning, before he wakes up. Those things must be unbearable. Something's got to soften them up without loosening.
The burn of the Scotch slid against the back of his throat, the last drop like a lifeline ending, snapping as he licked his lips. He hadn't lit any candles tonight, and the wind outside made a hollow noise against the windows. The glass rattled, as if in confusion. Remus couldn't think anymore. His tongue had grown numb, and his legs and hands heavy. Sirius's open diary still lay next to him.
Remus took out a cigarette from the packet and lit it with the tip of his wand. He relaxed against the wall, attempting to stretch the sore muscles in his back. For a long time he sat, eyes closed, releasing smoke into the ceiling, tasting the Scotch on his breath. The only movement he made was to lift the cigarette to his lips. He slowly grew accustomed to the heaviness of it, letting himself sink further into the quiet stupor. Nothing mattered, only the cold hard wall against his back, and his cigarette, slowly burning away. He had stopped any attempts at making sense of Sirius's diary a few hours back, and now, his only thoughts were of tomorrow, and maybe, of the night after. Thinking further made no sense, since he was unsure as to whether or not he would still be, then. There existed no good reasons for him not to be, but the world was a funny place. He found he didn't particularly care either way.
Harry is absolutely tiny. I don't understand how somebody so tiny could create such a fuss, but he cries like he's got Hagrid's lungs. James has gone mental over him, worse than Lily, even, and he absolutely can't seem to stand it when Harry cries. He legs it whenever the crying starts, and Lily is forced to calm him down herself.
The smoke wove an odd pattern as it rose towards the ceiling, and if Remus squinted, he could perhaps make out a head of wavy hair, or a robe swishing over the wind.
We walked home today, instead of Apparating. It was dark, and the streets were almost empty towards the end. Remus leaned in, and I leaned into him, and we walked, and for once, it felt normal, as if there wasn't anything wrong in the world. Of course, there is. Another Auror was killed today. She was one of ours, Moody's, people. She was just a bit older than us, 24, 25. Arthur was sent in to tell her fiancé.
He pulled up his legs, wrapped his arms around them. Pins and needles covered his entire legs. The cigarette was finished, and he flicked it away.
Too fucking tired to even shag. Remus fell asleep as soon as he pulled the covers over himself, I can't sleep, though. I'm exhausted, but can't sleep. I keep thinking… I mean… No, of course, it's bollocks, but something is happening, though I can't say what it is. I don't know what. This is stupid. I shouldn't write any of this. You never know who can get to this thing. Sure, I've been good about not letting anybody see it, even Remus doesn't know, but still. Maybe it's a good thing- I mean, with the- No, fuck it, I'm shutting up. I need to sleep.
It felt good to rest his head on his knees, and he closed his eyes once more, seeing the familiar scrawl on the inside of his lids, seared into his brain.
We moved into our own flat. Remus and me. My uncle's money was enough for us to buy it, so we don't even have to worry about the rent. Remus isn't too happy about not contributing, but I say, where better to put my family money than for shacking up with my werewolf Gryffindor boyfriend? He seemed to agree to that condition.
He coughed and fumbled for another cigarette. The air was stale with the smoke from the previous one. His head thrummed with a dull ache around the temples.
Peter came over. Lately, he's been reverting more and more to the old Peter. He's been wibbling a lot, and looking away, and I don't know what else. Frankly, it's irritating. I swear, he doesn't like the “queer” flat. Remus doesn't agree. He thinks it's that Peter isn't as well-off as the rest of us, and he's got his mother to support. He's embarrassed, he says. I say, grow a backbone and face your friends like an equal.
His eyes stung. He wished for another bottle, but he had no will to go outside. The wind grew louder. There was no food left in the cupboards. He sank lower against the wall.
James is off on his honeymoon. Got a postcard today. They're in Paris. Apparently, everybody's flirting with Lily, save for a bloke who tried flirting with him. Maybe Remus and I ought to shack up in Paris.
His neck grew stiff at supporting his weight. He sank down even lower, and his head thumped against the wall as he lay down. The dull ache grew more insistent.
He's upset, I know he is. He wouldn't say anything, of course, but I know he is. I don't know what to do. I never do, really. Whenever he goes inside himself like that, I'm left out in the cold.
He sucked in his cheeks and inhaled the smoke. His thumbed flicked against this chin by accident. Four-day stubble. He hadn't seen his face in the mirror for just as long. He imagined he looked like death personified.
I keep hearing rumors about my family. What the hell are they up to? I've been sent in to investigate, of course. Dumbledore simply loves using his contacts.
The walls seemed to grey before his eyes, the smoke coating every surface in the room. The old dining table he hadn't bothered to throw out. The leather-covered stool in the corner. The blank spots on the wall that had once held picture frames.
Bugger, it's freezing. Don't know why I brought this thing along. But since I'll be waiting for a while, might as well use it. I’ve got it hexed, anyway. Bella, where the fuck are you… Come and say hello, you cold bitch.
His hand fell to his side. The cigarette was almost burnt out. A thin wisp of white smoke rose to the ceiling; it only made it halfway.
I don't think I'm ready to die. I should be, this is what I'm fighting for, I should be willing to, but I'm not. I can't leave all this. I can't. Please don't let me lose it, now that I've found it. God, I'm a fucking coward.
His eyelids fell heavily against his eyes. They stung, and he tried blinking to rid himself of the sting.
I think I'm losing it. Does Remus know? Do I know? Why is it so fucking dark, here, anyway?
He covered his face with his hand and turned to one side. Maybe it was the smoke. He brought the other hand, shaking, to his lips and inhaled deeply. He wished it was stronger. He wished he could sleep.
I can't. I can't. I can't. This is mad. I can't do this.
He couldn't sleep. Maybe there was another bottle in the cupboard he'd overlooked.
Another one dead. The Muggles are oblivious. There's a war on their doorstep, and they fucking can't see a thing. Like fucking children.
No, he'd finished them all. When he got to the inn tomorrow, he'd buy another one. He needed more cigarettes.
I can't sleep.
He needed oblivion.
I can't do this.
He flicked the cigarette away. It flashed red, went out.
Bugger it all. I'm fucking tired.
His breathing evened out.
I'll burn this
He fell asleep.